SADC rejects President Mugabe's plan, but will he oblige?

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Robert Mugabe
It seems 88-year-old Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is not in a mood to part with the craving for eternal empowerment. In May, Mugabe had announced his plan to call early elections and discard the country's power-sharing agreement of 2008. This he did considering his growing age and to put his party, the ZANU-PF, at a favourable position under the current constitution of the country.

However, the President's proposal was declined by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) at a recent meeting at Luanda. The SADC works towards the socio-economic, political and security cooperation and integration of 15 southern African states. At the Luanda talks, the SADC members, who act as guarantors of the power-sharing pact, told Mugabe that Zimbabwe can go to polls after a new constitution is put in place. The pact, which was signed in September 2008, saw Mugabe's iron-hold on the nation's governance loosening to a great extent.

A new constitution, work on the formulation of which is nearly two years behind schedule, is expected to ensure a smooth transfer of power from the ZANU-PF to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangiri. The latter had underwent a split in 2005 over the Senate elections, with the other faction led by Arthur Mutambara. A peaceful power transfer to the MDC could also see Zimbabwe continuing towards a modest economic performance, something it has been doing since the 2008 pact, which succeeded in stopping the political violence to a large extent.

Zimbabwean economy has seen some revival after witnessing a horrendous hyperinflation, which ultimately saw the government rendering its own currency obsolete and replace it with various foreign currencies, including the US dollar. The growth was driven mainly by mining, agriculture and tourism. The human-development indicators of the country, like longevity and child mortality, too have improved. Revenue from tax has also increased owing to rise in economic activity.

However, there is still a long way to go for Zimbabwe. Excessive government expenditure, lopsided ownership norms for foreign businesses, poor allocation of funds for education (David Coltart of the MDC's Mutambara faction, however, did a commendable work after taking over as the education minister) and of course the evil political hindrance to the nation's growth.

The obsolete constitution of Zimbabwe would make it difficult to get rid of smooth transfer of power in the days to come and keep people like Mugabe at bay. An effort to reverse the country's political tradition would be a welcome development for Zimbabweans, not only those at home but also abroad, and that can bring some positive change in the nation's destiny. The last thorn in the flesh is Mugabe, of course. If the ageing dictator abides by the Luanda talks, his tenure will be shortened undoubtedly. But if he and his outfit refuses to accept the terms, Zimbabwe could revisit its dark days once more.

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